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Credits and Acknowledgments

Credit for this project belongs to a number of very special people.  Decades ago, Dr. Alfred Moldovan, a WWII veteran, electrical engineer, family doctor in East Harlem for over fifty years, civil rights activist, founding member of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, and founder of the Harry Friedman Society for Judaica Collectors, encouraged Benjamin Zucker, a precious gems dealer, avant-garde author, collector and philanthropist, to purchase this manuscript.  At the time, little was known about it, where it came from, who wrote it, when it was written, and where it was written.  Dr. Moldovan and Mr. Zucker, in the course of their long friendship, continued to return to the manuscript to try to decipher its secrets.  Dr. Moldovan contacted eminent scholars from around the world, including the late Prof. Ze'ev Vilnay, a specialist in Holy Land historical geography who received his doctorate from Dropsie College in Philadelphia.  Prof. Vilnay speculated that the manuscript was copied from a printed source but wasn't able to say which one.  Dr. Moldovan, himself a collector of antique maps of the Holy Land, reasoned that the illustrations, particularly the map sections of the Holy Land, might be based on recognizable sources.  Dr. Moldovan dreamed of being able to stitch together the individual map illustrations, numbering about eighty-five, to see if together as a composite map they might reveal their origins. 

In 2008, thanks to Edward Lenkin, a Penn alumnus, the Penn Libraries acquired a significant collection of photographs of the Holy Land, as well as printed books, maps, postcards, and other original sources documenting travel there over a period of nearly five hundred years, namely from the 16th century to 1947.  Penn's efforts to develop integrated access to related materials held, inter alia, at the National Library of Israel, the Palestine Exploration Fund in London, the Dalman Institute collection at the University of Greifswald in German, and at other institutions, led to a meeting with Dr. Moldovan.  Dr. Moldovan in turn introduced Penn's Schottenstein-Jesselson Curator of Judaica, Arthur Kiron, to the manuscript and subsequently to its owner, Benjamin Zucker.  Benjamin proposed the donation of the manuscript to Penn in honor of his dear friend Alfred Moldovan. He and Dr. Moldovan both asked that the Penn Libaries find someone to continue working on the manuscript.   David McKnight, the Director of Penn's Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and its digital library program called SCETI (Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image), agreed to take on this project and devoted financial and human resources to realize these goals. 

During the Fall of 2010, a visiting scholar from the University of Bern, Switzerland named Ms. Anna Baechtold came to work at SCETI.  With her fluency in German, her interest in art history, and her fascination with the manuscript, Ms. Baechtold was assigned to the project.  Over the course of the next year, Ms. Baechtold made astonishing discoveries which are now documented in the introduction to this manuscript.  She also transcribed the text of the entire manuscript, including its marginal notations. John Pollack, a staff member at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Penn, played a critical role in helping Ms. Baechtold edite her English language introductions to the website pages and was supportive of the project in countless ways.  Perhaps one of the most exciting and beautiful outcomes of this project was Ms. Baechtold’s effort to create the composite map that Dr. Moldovan had envisioned.  After drafting a jigsaw puzzle-like map of the individual pieces, she then partnered with Dennis Mullen, the web-design expert at SCETI, who was able to stitch these pieces together digitally. In addition, Mr. Mullen designed this website, connected the transcriptions at the page level to each manuscript page, and solved a number of technical problems related to the construction of such an innovative site. 

On behalf of the University of Pennsylvania Libaries, I extend my deepest thanks and appreciation to all of these people for their enthusiasm, warmth, imagination, and sheer talent in helping to realize what you now are able to view on-line.

Arthur Kiron, Ph.D.
Schottenstein-Jesselson Curator of Judaica Collections
November 1, 2011

 

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